T-Birds take second in championship
By Seattle Valdivia - Staff Reporter
TACOMA – The Lady T-Birds volleyball team battled its way to the NWAC championship match before falling to undefeated Spo- kane and taking second place.
Highline made the final at the Greater Tacoma Convention Center last Sunday after winning two games against Bellevue and Linn-Benton on Thursday and Friday before losing to Spokane in the third round on Friday night.
That threw them into the los- er's bracket, where they won three straight games against North Ida- ho, Edmonds and Pierce making it into the finals to face Spokane again, where they lost, 3-0.
The loss capped a season in which Highline went 34-12, tak- ing second in the West Region. But the Lady T-Birds got hot at the right time, beating West champi- on Pierce for the first time all year. Spokane, 40-0, was the only team Highline couldn't spike.
The T-Birds played their first playoff game last Thursday at the Greater Tacoma Convention Cen- ter against the Bellevue Bulldogs, where Highline beat them 3-1.
"In the beginning of the year you have the whole season to make up stuff, so if you don't do it here it really shows," Head Coach Chris Littleman said. "This is where you wanna be playing your best volleyball."
In the first set the T-Birds went strong, where they went up by five points over the Bulldogs.
When Highline was only one point away from winning the set, Bellevue almost tie the game 24- 22, then Highline asked for a time out.
After that the Bulldogs came up with a kill putting the score- board 24-23, but due to a kill made
by the T-Bird Adrienne Haggerty, Highline took the win 25-23.
In the second set the Bulldogs dominated over Highline, only letting the T-Birds score 15 points in the set. The set ended 25-15.
Then in the beginning of the third set both teams were back and forth, that was until the scoreboard were 14-14.
After that, Highline started to score eight straight points leaving the Bulldogs behind. The set end- ed 25-16.
In the fourth set Bellevue went up for seven points over Highline ending the set, 25-18.
That took the game into a fifth set where the T-Birds took the lead by five points, where a kill by Haggerty sealed the deal 15-9, taking the T-Birds into the next round.
The T-Birds played against the Linn-Benton Roadrunners in their second playoff game last Friday at the Greater Tacoma Convention Center at 10:00 a.m. where Highline beat them 3-1.
In the first set the Roadrunners took the lead with a 25-18 score.
In the second set the T-Birds woke up and started scoring points over Linn-Benton, when the scoreboard was 15-6, the Roadrunners ask for a time out. After the timeout, Linn-Benton started scoring points almost ty- ing Highline, but thanks to a Kill by Haggerty the T-Birds took the win, ending 25-21.
In the third set the teams were tied at 21-21, but then Highline scored five straight points and a kill by Alicia Nguyen finished the set, 25-21.
In the fourth set the teams were back and forth. After a time out asked for Linn-Benton the teams got tied 24-24, and a dou- ble kill made by Misiona Riberio and Adrienne Haggerty sealed the deal. The set ended 26-24.
That took Highline into their third playoff game against the undefeated Spokane Sasquatch, where they lost 3-1.
"We played consistently in the first and second set," Coach Littleman said. "They just played more consistent through the end."
The T-Birds played a long first set, where the scoreboard went up to 30 points. The teams were back and fourth from the 20 point mark, where Highline took the win thanks to three straight points. The set ended 31-29.
In the second set Spokane tied Highline by 21 points then the Sasquatch beat the T-Birds by three straight points ending the set, 25-22.
In the third set the Sasquatch came strong scoring nine more points over Highline. A miss com- munication between two of the T-Birds caused a blow to the eye of Adrienne Haggerty, leaving her out for the rest of the set.
"It was just a miscommunica- tion," Haggerty said. "I was going for a ball, my teammate was going foraballandshehitmeinthe eye."
The set ended 25-16. In the fourth set the T-Birds
never managed to reach the Sas- quatch, when Spokane were at a point to win, the T-Birds scored four points in a row but a kill by Spokane sealed the deal, 25-16. "They're undefeated for a reason," Littleman said. "They could stay consistent longer than we could. We have to learn from it and hope- fully we can see them again."
That wasn't the end for the T-Birds, "That's a cool thing about double elimination. We had a bad game, we need to learn from it and we got one more chance to fix it," Littleman said.
Highline got another chance to make it into the finals.
"I feel like we played, we fought till the end so that's what matters the most to me," Haggerty said.
The T-Birds had three games in a row last Saturday to keep alive the hope of a pass to the final.
Their first game was against North Idaho at noon where the T-Birds beat them 2-0.
The T-Birds took the first set, 25-12.
In the second set the teams were back and forth on the last points but Highline founded a way to score the last two points, finish- ing 27-25.
That led the T-Birds to an an- other game against the Edmonds Tritons at 1:30 p.m. where the T-Birds won, 2-0.
In the first set, the T-Birds took an easy win over the Tritons, let- ting them score only eight points where the set ended, 25-8.
In the beginning of the second set, Highline was dominating by nine points and when they only needed one point to win, Ed- monds scored six straight points almost tying Highline but due to a kill made by Nguyen, the T-Birds took the win, 25-21.
Highline played against the No. 1 seed in the West Region the Pierce Raiders, to see who was go- ing to the final where the T-Birds beat them 2-0.
"We never have to give up," T-Bird Mahie Kaawa said. "We just have to pick each other up."
In the first set the teams got tied at 17, then were back and forth until Highline found a way to overtake them, and a kill by April Talaiga ended the set, 25-22. In the second set Pierce was always behind Highline by one or two points and finally, the T-Birds scored three straight points to win the game and advance to the final. The T-Birds played the final against the Spokane Sasquatch where Highline got second place,
losing 3-0. "We played consistent putting
all together for 25 points, we were starting to believe, starting to see the results and doing things right," Littleman said. "We just need- ed to restart playing consistent, we started to seeing the results, playing with energy. We did ev- erything right, we worked on all year."
In the first set Spokane took the lead by 18-8, forcing Highline to take a timeout.
After the timeout taken the T-Birds scored seven points, leav- ing the scoreboard 20-15, forcing Spokane to ask for a timeout.
After the timeout Spokane came back stronger, where a dou- ble-block and two straight points from the Sasquatch ended the set, 25-16.
In the second set Spokane left the T-Birds behind by 10 points, and a five straight points from the Sasquatch ended the set 25-11.
In the third set both teams were back and forth until eight straight points by Spokane and a service error from Highline left the score- board 19-10, forcing Highline to ask for a timeout.
After the timeout taken High- line started to score points but that was not enough to reach the Sasquatch and a kill by Spokane sealed the deal, leaving the T-Birds in second place.
"I learned that individually I can't win the whole game by myself. I need my whole team, my coaches and everybody sup- porting me behind my back," Nguyen said. "I'm hoping for the next season a really good connection and foundation, a base at the start of pre-season and the season so that we can f lourish from there and then come strong during the sea- son, hoping to win our region and then take home the NWAC championship next year."
"The good thing is that we did this with the majority team as freshmen, so they'll come back," Littleman said. "The best thing about freshmen is they become sophomores. So, it's a big deal. They have this high-level experience, they know when it needs to be done and they can pass it on to the next incoming class of fresh- men."
Highline's Kate McGrath watches as Mahei Kaawa sets the ball for a spike at the NWAC tournament in Tacoma. Highline made it all the way to nals before falling to Spokane to nish second in the NWAC. Overall on the year, the underbirds nished with a record of 34-12. A er losing to Spokane in their third round, Highline won their next three matches to reach the championship. See more in Sports, page 11.